Through the haze of smoke in the medication area inside the Exdo Event Center in Denver Saturday, the Alpenglow Botanicals booth was a spot of bright yellow amid a sea of green.
Sporting branded tops and marijuana-leaf necklaces, employees passed around samples and explained the features of their products from behind a display case housing a dozen or so jars of marijuana.
The Breckenridge medical marijuana retailer entered locally grown samples against fierce competition in the inaugural U.S. Cannabis Cup, a pro-pot festival and professional contest between growers.
Alpenglow Botanicals owners left without awards for their products, but with a better perspective of the industry statewide.
"There was a lot of good competition out there," said Justin Williams, of Alpenglow, who manned the dispensary's booth along with a number of other employees. "There're a lot of good products and progression being made in the industry, between the hash artists and the edibles. It's good to see."
The event, hosted by High Times magazine, attracted businesses from across the state and people from across the country, drawing an estimated 10,000 attendees.
Lines wrapped around the block on Saturday, April 20, an unofficial holiday for pot enthusiasts, as people jockeyed for admission to the expo-style event, which included panels and talks, giveaways and demonstrations. Vendors showed off various consumption devices, edibles and growing technologies in separate areas for recreational and medicinal use.
Frisco's Medical Marijuana of the Rockies owner Jerry Olson also attended the event, although he didn't opt for a booth in the medication area. He said the event was a useful networking opportunity.
"It was really crowded, but it's always fun," he said. "It was much larger this year."
High Times has hosted similar events focused on the medical industry for the last two years, but this was the first time the headline event has been hosted in the U.S., following the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21 in Colorado and Washington. The magazine held Cannabis Cups in San Francisco and Amsterdam on Saturday as well.
"It caused a lot more excitement," Alpenglow Botanicals owner Charlie Williams said of Amendment 64, nothing that enthusiasm among retailers will depend on next moves from the state government.
It is still illegal to sell marijuana in Colorado, under the terms of Amendment 64, until a state regulatory infrastructure is in place. State lawmakers and local governments have until Oct. 1 to determine how marijuana sales will be regulated and taxed. Those decisions will be important to those, like Williams, who are now all the way in on the medical side.
"This is a product just like any other, it's not price inelastic," he said. "I'm not sure how it's going to work out in the long run. I think they're probably going to strangle the golden goose."
Williams said he's heard talk of exorbitant excise and sales taxes on recreational sales, which he believes could cause prices on legal recreational products to rise enough to push buyers back into the black market.
Alpenglow Botanicals grows all of its products on-site at its location on Airport Road in Breckenridge. Williams said he was pleased with the exposure his business got through the weekend event, he's unsure whether he'll compete again next year.
The Cannabis Cup was one of several 4/20 events celebrated across the state. One of the largest was a rally in Civic Center Park Saturday. The event, located several miles from the Cup, ended early when shots rang out at approximately 5 p.m., injuring two people among a crowd of 80,000.
For local marijuana enthusiasts, the shooting was both horrifying and frustrating, casting a shadow over the first 4/20 festivities since legalization.
"It's sad that one bad apple can ruin a good thing," Justin Williams said. "Something that should have been so positive turned negative because of one or two people."
The Denver Post contributed to the reporting of this story.